Biography of Henry Ashoff



Berrien County

Online Biographies


Also see [Railway Officials in America 1906]

Among the citizens of Royalton township none have a more creditable position in its society than has Henry Ashoff, who was born near Herford, Westphalia, Prussia, May 1, 1827. His early life was spent with his father on a farm. At the age of eight he entered school, attending until he was fourteen, being allowed only two weeks vacation in twelve months. The educational system in Prussia is one of the best, and America may well take pattern. At the age of fourteen he left school, working on the farm in summer, and being taught in winter by a private teacher, reciting astronomy and natural history. At the age of twenty one he was drafted into the Prussian army (1848), serving three years as grenadier in Berlin. He entered as private, and at the end of the first year was promoted and put on duty at headquarters, serving the last year as corporal and teacher. He was honorably discharged on the 21st of September, 1851. Returning home, he assisted his father on the farm for the next twenty months. In May, 1853, he sailed for America. The vessel upon which he embarked was a sail vessel by the name of “Magdalane,” one hundred and sixtyfive passengers were aboard. He landed August 25th, at New York. He went from there to Philadelphia by boat. He had just nine dollars when he landed, a stranger in a strange land, unable to speak anything but the German language. After staying in Philadelphia one week, he passed over to New Jersey, hiring to work in a brick yard at one dollar per day. He was taken sick immediately, and for three weeks was unable to work. He was obliged to sell his watch and a part of his clothes to pay his bills. Returning to Philadelphia, he entered a hospital, where he remained for nine weeks. As soon as he was able to leave the hospital he again tried farming, going twenty miles from Philadelphia, and hiring for the small sum of five dollars per month. Soon after he was employed as a hand on the railroad, working on a tunnel which was then being built in Bucks Co., Pa. Having a desire to push farther west, he started for Chicago; remaining there but a few days, he passed over to St. Joseph, landing there the 13th of September, 1854, working in a saw mill in summer, and. chopping cord wood in winter.

April 15, 1855, he married Mrs. Emma N., widow of John Randal, and oldest daughter of Joseph Gard, of St. Joseph. Six children blessed this union, viz.: James B., Viola, Martha, Hiram, William, and Mary. Viola is the wife of John Geisler, living in Watervliet. Mr. Gard deeded to Mr. Ashoff eighty acres, where he now lives. He has since added twenty acres. This farm is located in Royalton township, section 20. Mr. Ashoff owns land in St. Joseph and Lincoln townships, and has cleared eighty acres since he has been in this State.

Mrs. Ashoff died Jan. 4, 1873. Aug. 6, 1873. he married for his second wife Elizabeth Kniebes, of Bainbridge, widow of Christian Kniebes, and daughter of William Duckshire. In politics Mr. Ashoff is a Democrat. His integrity and uprightness won the confidence of his fellow citizens, and he has been chosen to many positions of honor and responsibility; and he has ever discharged their duties with credit to himself; and to the entire satisfaction of the people. Among the offices which he has held are the following: elected township treasurer in 1858, held the office six years; in 1866 supervisor and school inspector, serving six years in each; in 1869 justice of the peace, still holding the office; in 1872 appointed treasurer by the township board; in 1873 reelected supervisor for three years; in 1875 elected to the State equalization board at Lansing; in 1876—77 reelected treasurer, he has been appointed administrator to settle up several estates, always giving entire satisfaction. Mr. Ashoff has been a member of the Evangelical Church for twenty years. He has held different offices in the church, having been class leader for eighteen years. He has been filling offices of trust, both in State and Church, almost all the time since his first arrival in America. In reading this short sketch of the eventful life of Mr. Ashoff, the correct conclusion of any one must be that he is no ordinary man. His early education, so thoroughly instilled, has prepared him to fill any office of trust into which he may be placed. In connection with his education, his energy and industry have made him such a man that the community in which he lives can but regard him as one whom they cannot well lose, or, if lost, whose place cannot be filled. What a pleasure it must be, when life is drawing towards its close of activity, for one to look back on its varied shadows and sunshine, its struggles and triumphs, and feel that they have lived to some purpose, having benefited mankind in having lived. Such a one, surely, is Mr. Ashoff, who has devoted so much of his time for the good of those around him, not only to municipal affairs, but his time and talents have been given to the cause of his Master; this he can review certainly with a calm and serene feeling, born of an unfaltering trust in One “who doeth all things well.”

History of Berrien and Van Buren Counties, Michigan
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches
of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers.
D. W. Ensign & Co., Philadelphia 1880
Press of J. B. Lippincoff & Co., Philadelphia.

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